Thursday, May 26, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom 15: Searching for What You Need

Tux had a crisis today. His favorite plush toy of all time went missing. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. He was rushing from room to room looking in all the places where his toys end up - under the dresser, on the living room couch, in his toy box (yes, he has a toy box, and yes, it has quite a few toys in it - one can accumulate lots of toys in 11 years). When he started searching the same rooms a second time, I knew something was amiss.
Toy Crisis
I knew we were having one of our toy crisis. It hasn’t happened often, but it has happened before that he has lost a toy. Usually, though the toy has been accidentally kicked under a piece of furniture or fallen between the bed and the cedar chest or was in the washer/dryer. This time though, there were no toys in the usual places. 
I offered him his plush hamburger, but he turned his nose up at it. Next, I tried his multi-colored fish, but that wasn’t what he needed either. I tried another hamburger (he has three), a rat-looking thing, a hedgehog (I told you he had a few toys), and finally a hot dog. None of those were the one he was looking for.
He finally sat down in the middle of the family room and looked at me with those big brown plaintive eyes. Could a severe depression be far behind? Seldom had I wished he could actually speak as I did at that moment. What toy was missing? I ran through a mental list of the toys I could remember giving him. Which one was missing?
Knowing What You’re Hunting For
Aha, I fairly shouted. It was his blue, pink, and white plush ball. The ball was the first toy I had given him when he was six weeks old. Then, he hadn’t been much bigger than the ball. He has treasured that ball from the beginning. It is the toy of choice when he’s stressed - after a visit to the vet or groomer, for instance, he will always go for the ball when he returns home. 
Now that I knew what we were looking for, I joined in the hunt. But even I couldn’t find it. I even asked Grace, his sister, if she knew where it was. Grace had been lying on the couch on one of the green throw pillows the entire time Tux and I had been toy hunting. She had never been one to join in on these frenzied quests for a toy. 
Know When to Admit Defeat
I finally admitted defeat. I couldn’t imagine where the toy had gotten to. As means of distracting Tux, I opened the back door and invited him to go out. Grace immediately jumped off the couch because she only passes up an opportunity to go outside when she doesn’t feel well. 
Toy Found At Last!
After Grace went out (Tux had refused to leave the house and his toy), I once again went in search of his toy. I found it in about two minutes. Grace had been lying on top of it the entire time. It had been beneath the green pillow she’d been lying on.

I have to wonder if Grace knew all along that Tux's toy was beneath her. Something tells me that she did. Their struggle for the title of Alpha Dog took an ugly turn today.
Looking in All the Wrong Places
As writers, we often are in search of something - words, character names, titles, agents, and publishers, to name but five things we hunt for. 
It doesn’t take us long to find out where to look for things - a thesaurus for words, a baby names web site for character names, for agents, etc. 
Like Tux, we exhaust all the usual sources first. Sometimes, though, a thesaurus doesn’t give us what we want. What then? 
Then, we need to learn to look outside the box. I found the Bookshelf Muse one day when I was looking for another word for black, as in black hair, raven hair, etc. The Bookshelf Muse has thesauri for emotions, settings, and colors, textures, and shapes. Visit her blog the next time you find yourself searching for just the right word for “pink” when “pink” won’t do. There is a wealth of information there. Find her at
Finding What You Want and Need
Search long enough, and you’ll find what you want and need just as Tux did the morning he went in search of his favorite toy. Granted, he didn’t find it by himself. There will be times when we won’t find what we want either. Then, like Tux, it’s time to turn to your friends.

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